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Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Among Israeli Ex-Prisoners of War 18 and 30 Years After Release.[CME]

J Clin Psychiatry 2005;66(8):1031-1037

Background: The psychological responses to captivity were measured in a sample of former prisoners of war (POWs) 18 and 30 years after release from captivity.

Method: 209 Israeli veterans of the 1973 Yom Kippur War (103 ex-POWs and 106 controls) who had taken part in a previous study conducted in 1991 participated in the current study conducted in 2003. The study assessed current rates of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), changes in PTSD over time, and the contribution of captivity severity (objective and subjective), sociodemographic variables, and psychological appraisal and coping with captivity to predicting PTSD using standardized self-report questionnaires.

Results: Twenty-three percent of the ex-POWs met PTSD criteria and were 10 times more likely than controls to experience deterioration in their psychological condition in the 12-year interval between the 2 assessments. Almost 20% of ex-POWs who did not meet PTSD criteria in 1991 met criteria in the current assessment, in comparison to almost 1% of the controls. Current PTSD was predicted by younger age at the time of captivity, by loss of emotional control and higher subjective appraisal of suffering in captivity, and by a greater number of PTSD symptoms in the 1991 assessment.

Conclusion: It is important to follow up and offer treatment to former POWs. Special attention should be paid to those who lost emotional control in captivity and to those who felt that the conditions of their captivity were severe.